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 Isaac Witkin  (1936 - 2006)

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Lived/Active: Vermont/New Jersey      Known for: abstract organic sculpture, art educator

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Coming to prominence in the early 1960s, Isaac Witkin was devoted to the constructivist aesthetic as exemplified by Anthony Caro of Britain and the American sculptor, David Smith.   He was part of a new generation that markedly changed the tenor of sculpture in Britain.   Often made of fiberglass, his sculpture was especially noted for bright color and its "witty, Pop-Art look."  In 1963, the Rowan Gallery in London held the first exhibition of his work, and two years later was in a landmark show, "The New Generation: 1965", at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.  In 1966, an exhibition titled "Primary Structures" at the Jewish Museum included his sculpture and has been regarded as one of the "defining" exhibitions of Minimalism---then a new style.

Isaac Witkin was born in Johannes, South Africa and attended St. Martin's School of Art in London (now Central St. Martins College of Art and Design).  There he studied with Anthony Caro, and among his fellow students were Barry Flanagan, Phillip King and William Tucker---all sculptors who achieved distinction.  Finishing school in 1960, Witkin, for the next two and one-half years, worked as an assistant to English sculptor Henry Moore, and then returned to work at St. Martins.

In 1965, he moved to America, taking a job in Vermont at Bennington College, an institution that became "a magnet for modernist artists" including Anthony Caro, Kenneth Noland, Paul Feeley, and Jules Olitski.  Collectively with Witkin, they became known in the art world as The Green Mountain Boys.  Witkin became an American citizen in 1975 and stayed at Bennington until 1979. 

In the late 1970s, Witkin began looking for a different approach through density and volume, which led to his experimenting with poured bronze into sand molds, creating shapes that were leaf-like and often long and thin.  He welded them together in what seemed like a casual, unplanned manner, which gave them a surreal, organic appearance.   Many of his welded steel works had obvious influences of David Smith as well as Caro, which was the joining of large scale, heavy, industrial steel forms with compositional elements of Cubism. 

In the early 1980s, he moved to New Jersey, and in 1987 settled on 22 acres of blueberry-farm land in Pemberton, where he lived until his death.  Just previous to this time, he held positions at Middlebury College, Parsons School of Design, and the Philadelphia College and Art.  In New Jersey he taught at the Burlington County Community College.

In fall, 1998, a special exhibit of his work was held at the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia.


Source:
Ken John, "Isaac Witkin, 69, Innovator in Abstract Metal Sculpture", Obituaries, The New York Times, Section A11, April 29, 2006

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Note from Lorraine R. Vincent:

I met Isaac in the 70's when he lived in Vermont.  I do know that Isaac's birthday is May 10.  He was one of the nicest and most honest people that one could know.  He has a daughter that plays the piano.  Isaac always spoke of her with so much admiration.  To date I have one of the pianos that she began with in Bennington.

Peter Homestead a friend and fellow artist; worked along side Issac in Vermont and then they both in each other's time explored the Johnson Atelia, a bronze Foundry in Trenton, New Jersey.

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